The eighth AfricaGIS conference and exhibition took place on September 17-21, 2007 in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso). AfricaGIS is a platform of exchange of geographic information among African and international professionals. The theme for the 2007 conference was "AfricaGIS 2007, reducing poverty in Africa through information". The conference brought together high quality specialists, who expressed the need for support, better organisation, and information networks.
AfricaGIS 2007 was organised by the Ministry for Secondary and Higher Education and Scientific Research of Burkina Faso in conjunction with EIS-AFRICA (Environmental Information System), a network for cooperative management of environmental information in Africa. (http://www.eis-africa.org/). The conference was organised in four sessions :
Geo-information and national policy for geographic information ;
Urban land-use planning and development ;
Multidimensional vision of poverty
GIS and risk management
A number of cases of the use of geomatics were presented ; scientific know-how in GIS is not lacking in Africa and some of the presentations were quite technical (e.g. detailed comparisons among photos, satellite images and radar images). What is lacking, according to participants, is organised networks (like EIS-AFRICA, above). The advantages of building such networks include :
coordinated projects (e.g. projects stemming from the TIGER initiative started by the European Space Agency and calling for the use of space technologies to improve our understanding of the water cycle and to develop sustainable earth observation services for integrated hydric resource management in Africa) ;
common universal reference frames (AFREF, African Geodetic Reference Frame, which aims at establishing normalised spatial referencing for Africa – http://geoinfo.uneca.org/afref) ;
databases referencing all existing data sets (both images and corresponding information), their geographic zone, cost, owner, format and needed software ;
reduced cost of image acquisition through mutualisation.
AfricaGIS 2007 confirms the importance of Geographic Information Systems for agriculture in developing areas.
The conference concluded with a call for (i) more support to geomatics as a priority for development, (ii) the establishment by the African Union of an African Space Advising Committee, (iii) a greater participation by African countries in the GEO Group and in the GEOSS program, (iv) participation by African insitutions in initiatives such as GMES, (v) a partnership of international agencies responsible for earth observation and ecosystem mapping with African regional centers such as RCMRD, RECTAS, or AOCRS, (vi) sustained support for EIS-Africa and the AARSE from the donor community, and (vii) the adoption and use of open source software tools in geomatics by African institutions and governments.
GIS : Geographical Information System
GEO : Group on Earth Observation
GEOSS : Global Earth Observation System of Systems
GMES : Global Monitoring for Environment and Security